(Petaling Jaya, Saturday): I must congratulate MCA President, Datuk Seri Dr. Ling Liong Sik for waking up like Rip Van Winkle as to realise after ten days that there was nation-wide outrage at the 43rd Merdeka Day Message of the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad where he likened the Malaysian Chinese Organisations' Election Appeals Committee (Suqiu) to the Al-Ma’unah movement and to those of the "communists in the past" for "fanning racial sentiments".
However, Liong Sik was guilty of pure sophistry in his unbelievable and outrageous attempt to explain away Mahahtir’s outrageous Merdeka Day message.
Liong Sik made two points yesterday: firstly, Mahathir was not referring to the Suqiu group when he likened Chinese extremists in the country to communists in his National Day message, and secondly, that he would personally explain to the Prime Minister that Suqiu is different from the communists.
These two statements are self-contradictory, as there should be nothing for Liong Sik to explain to Mahathir if the Prime Minister was not referring to Suqiu when he likened Chinese extremists in the country.
Furthermore, if Mahathir was not referring to the Suqiu group when he likened Chinese extremists in the country to communists, who was the Prime Minister referring to - could it be MCA, Gerakan and SUPP which openly endorsed the Suqiu last August and publicly claimed that the Cabinet had "approved the Suqiu in principle" which is challenged by UMNO leaders?
The only trouble for Liong Sik is that he is a minority of one to believe that the Prime Minister was not comparing Suqiu with the communists of yesteryears.
Can Liong Sik explain why it had taken him ten days to realise that the Prime Minister was not referring to Suqiu to the communists, or why he had not clarified earlier so as to calm the nation-wide outrage, if he really believed in this version?
Alternatively, why he did not ask for an appointment with Mahathir at the first available opportunity after the Merdeka Day message even before the Prime Minister left for the United States to get him to withdraw and apologise for his outrageous comparison.
This is such an important issue affecting inter-communal harmony, nation-building and the country’s investment potentials that I took the unprecedented action on Wednesday to send an urgent Email Open Letter to all Ministers before the Cabinet meeting urging it to "boldly and wisely grasp the nettle of worsening racial and religious polarisation in the country" by apologising for the Prime Minister’s 43rd Merdeka Day Message as well as clarifying the Cabinet’s position on Suqiu at its meeting on Sept. 22, 1999.
But there was no response from the Cabinet except for Liong Sik’s pure sophistry which insults not only the Prime Minister but the intelligence of all Malaysians.
Is Liong Sik seriously suggesting that Mahathir did not know what he was talking about or did not mean what he meant?
Or is he now blaming the journalists and newspapers for twisting and distorting Mahathir’s National Day message, which would be most irresponsible and anti-national and under the Barisan Nasional style of governance, earn the journalists a term under the Internal Security Act for undermining inter-racial harmony and national security?
Let us look at the front-page headlines in the mass media the next day (August 31, 2000) on Mahathir’s 43rd Merdeka Day message.
Utusan Malaysia’s headline reads: "PM bidas extremis Cina - ‘Tindak-tanduk mereka tidak banyak berbeza dengan komunis’" and started with the following lead:
"Dalam perutusan Hari Kebangsaannya, Perdana Menteri menyifatkan pendekatan yang diambil oleh Suqiu sama dengan kumpulan Al-Ma’unah yang cuba menyakitkan hati orang tertentu supaya perasaan perkauman dihidupkan semula.
"Sebubungan itu, beliau menegaskan, serangan Al-Ma’unah dan Suqiu akan merosakkan hubungan baik antara kaum yang telah diusahakan oleh kerajaan."
"Perdana Menteri mengingatkan perbuatan kumpulan Al-Ma’unah dan pendekatan Jawatankuasa Rayuan Pilihanraya Persatuan-Persatuan Cina (Suqiu) baru-baru ini, akan merosakkan hubungan baik antara kaum yang diusahakan kerajaan…
"Dr. Mahathir berkata, kerana ternampak seolah-olah kerajaan diketuai orang Melayu sudah menjadi lemah, puak ekstremis Cina yang memang pun tidak senang hati dengan kerjasama pelbagai kaum di negara ini, sudah mula menyakitkan hati orang Melayu dengan membuat tuntutan bukan-bukan.
"Tindakan mereka, tegas Perdana Menteri, tidak banyak berbeza dengan tindakan komunis dulu, yang hendak menghapuskan sama sekali kedudukan istimewa orang Melayu di Malaysia.
"’Dari segi pendekatannya, Suqui adalah sama dengan Al-Ma’unah, iaitu cuba menyakitkan hati orang tertengu supaya perasaan perkauman dihidupkan semula,’katanya."
"Citing the ‘atttacks’ of Al’Ma’unah and Suqiu (Malaysian Chinese Organisations’ Election Appeals Committee) as examples, he said these would destroy the good inter-racial relations which the Government had built up.
"He said Suqiu’s approach was the same as Al-Ma’unah as both tried to hurt the feelings of certain people so as to re-ignite racial sentimwents.
"If the Chinese newspapers which like to cause misunderstandings among the moderate Chinese and slanderous Internet websites run by Malays succeed in influencing both races, co-operation will be replaced by confrontation which will jeopardise stability and peace.’
"He said when it appeared that the Government led by the Malays had become weak and divided, the Chinese extremists began making all kinds of demands which hurt the feelings of the Malays. He said these were people who were not happy with inter-racial co-operation in the country.
"Their actions were not much different from that of the communists who wanted totally abolish the special status of the Malays in Malaysia,’ he said in his address to the nation aired over television tonight in conjunction with the 43rd National Day."
From these newspaper reports, there is no doubt that Liong Sik’s contention that Mahathir was not referring to the Suqiu group when he likened Chinese extremists in the country to communists in his National Day message was completely baseless and a cowardly attempt to run away from the facts.
Liong Sik should indeed meet Mahathir, not to give him misleading information
and wrong advice, but to boldly tell the Prime Minister that his 43rd Merdeka
Day message was completely unacceptable and most disgraceful to come
from any Malaysian leader, shamed all Malaysians and that Mahathir
should unreservedly apologise and withdraw the message